Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8, NIV
This verse from Philippians is one of my watchwords. It’s a verse that raises my spirits.
The problem is, it dropped out of my mind in the last year. Covid-19, which is far from over, drove it out of my consciousness.
The verse quoted above is actually part of Paul’s closing exhortation in his letter to the congregation at Philippi. Before he gets to that “finally,” he says many things about keeping the faith and preaching the gospel. For example:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:7-9, NIV
In the past difficult year, I didn’t consider the challenge of thinking about the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable when those things seem hard to find. Yet here is Paul suffering adversity, but still heartening himself, the Philippians, and us as well. He encourages us to grapple with this faith exercise.
It’s easy to turn to a verse like Philippians 4:8 when you’ve had one bad day. It’s harder when there are too many bad days going around. Making decisions in advance about how to focus your attention, especially online, is helpful to me.
I’m as addicted as anyone else to the small screen and can fall into doom scrolling. I’m learning to be more discerning when I scroll through news items and try to pick ones that might tell me something I don’t already know. It’s easy to click on something that will reinforce my prejudices.
I’m working to balance my social media feeds, trying to follow people who have a positive message, and avoiding angry negativity. I’ve found people to follow who strive to accomplish something worthwhile. Some of them are Christian, and some aren’t. What I look for is a person whose overall message is uplifting.
Social media doesn’t cover as much of the world as I thought. The internet isn’t as comprehensive as it claims to be. The world is bigger than YouTube, Facebook, and the other media spaces. Doom scrolling doesn’t tell us the whole story. We can’t let ourselves be spun into discouragement by the internet vortex.
Over the past year, the Idaho Press carried dispatches from a former Boisean named Ted Kunz, who was bicycling around Africa. Due to local hostilities, he got stuck in Kenya, and spent more time there than he had planned. As I read his stories about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, visiting Lake Victoria, and talking with the locals, I realized he was my Africa reporter. The American media hardly cover ordinary life in Africa. If I rely only on the major news outlets, I’m missing the news from an entire continent.
While walking in my neighborhood last weekend, I found a tiny duckling huddled in between the sidewalk and the grass. It was yellow and fuzzy. I looked around for an adult bird. I listened for the call of a mother. I didn’t hear or see anything. I was sad, thinking the baby bird didn’t have much chance of surviving.
When I got home, I decided I might as well call the Animals in Distress number. They advised me to pick up the bird and take it to the bird center up in the hills off 36th Street in Boise.
My son and I collected the bird in a shoe box. We drove him up to the bird rescue facility where we were met by a cheerful young woman. “He’s a big dehydrated, but he’ll be fine. I’ll put him in with the other ducklings.”
I had expected that she would sigh and say there wasn’t much that could be done. So I was wrong! There was hope for that little bird. I felt better, knowing that I had made a difference for another living creature.